06/30/2015 8:32AM

Asmussen sued by Labor Dept. on overtime

Barbara D. Livingston
Trainer Steve Asmussen is accused by the Labor Dept. of not paying his grooms and hotwalkers overtime pay.

The U.S. Department of Labor has sued trainer Steve Asmussen with allegations that his stable is breaking federal labor law by not paying proper overtime to workers at Churchill Downs, in a lawsuit filed late last week in U.S. District Court in Louisville, Ky.

The lawsuit claims that Asmussen and KDE Equine LLC "willfully and repeatedly" had hotwalkers and grooms work more than 40 hours per week without paying wages of at least 1 1/2 times their base pay, which would violate the Fair Labor Standards Act. The lawsuit also alleges that the stable failed to keep accurate records of workers and how long they worked, and that two workers were incorrectly identified as exempt from overtime.

The Department is seeking to have Asmussen pay back wages to 100 workers it says have been involved since June of 2012, and to any other employees found to be owned money.

Asmussen's attorney Clark Brewster told a Louisville television outlet on Monday that he doesn't believe any violations occurred, saying that the lawsuit has "systemic flaws" regarding the number of staff members involved and the names of workers at Churchill Downs in the given timeframe.

"I don't think it's based upon merit," Brewster said. "I don't think it's based upon facts. It appears to be a government shakedown."

Brewster added that he asked investigators to explain their findings prior to the lawsuit being filed, and that "we would be very, very responsible in trying to correct them."

In January of 2015, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission cleared Asmussen of animal cruelty allegations brought by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). The New York Gaming Commission has also completed an investigation into the same, with the results yet to be formally announced. Asmussen has been under a federal court order in New York since January of 2013, requiring him to pay employees proper overtime.